Somatoform disorders among patients attending walk-in clinics in Trinidad: prevalence and association with depression and anxiety

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Abstract:

Objectives: Somatoform disorders are common in international primary care settings, but have been little studied in the developing world. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of severe undifferentiated somatoform disorder, and its relationship to depression and anxiety, among patients attending walk-in clinics in Trinidad.

Methods: The study participants, who were all aged 18 years or older and attending walk-in clinics at 16 randomly selected health centres, were surveyed between May and August 2007 using the PRIME-MD questionnaire.

Results: There were 594 participants (the response rate was 92%), of whom 72.7% were female. Their ages ranged from 18 to 93 years, and 54.5% were over 50 years of age. In total, 37.2% were married and 25.9% were single. Indo-Trinidadians represented 43.1% and Afro-Trinidadians represented 36% of the study sample; 56.5% of the participants reported that their income was less than US$ 400 per month, and 65.7% were unemployed. At walk-in clinics in Trinidad, the estimated prevalence of severe undifferentiated somatoform disorder was 10.3% (95% CI: 7.86–12.74), that of hypochondriasis was 28.5% (95% CI: 24.9–32.1), and that of body dysmorphic disorder was 15.8% (95% CI: 11.9–18.7). Severe undifferentiated somatoform disorder was statistically significantly associated with gender and ethnicity but not with age, level of education, employment status or income. Chi-square testing found significant associations between the presence of severe undifferentiated somatoform disorder and both depression and anxiety (P < 0.05), between hypochondriasis and both anxiety and depression (P < 0.05), and between body dysmorphic disorder and depression (P < 0.05) but not anxiety. Regression analysis suggested that the demographic features that predicted severe undifferentiated somatoform disorder were being female or Indo-Trinidadian.

Conclusions: Walk-in clinics in Trinidad that serve older patients on a lower income have a high proportion of patients with somatoform disorders as measured by the PRIME-MD scale. These patients exhibit many features of anxiety and depression. These findings have implications for medical training and service delivery.

Keywords: BODY DYSMORPHIC DISORDER; HYPOCHONDRIASIS; PRIMARY CARE; SOMATOFORM DISORDERS

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Senior Lecturer, c/o Unit of Public Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Medical Sciences, St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies;, Email: rohan.maharaj@sta.uwi.edu 2: House Officers, Trinidad healthcare system

Publication date: September 1, 2013

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